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Front Page » August 26, 2010 » Carbon County News » 1938: Paper covers opening of college
Published 1,486 days ago

1938: Paper covers opening of college


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

(Editors Note: This is one of a series of articles about the history of the Sun Advocate and the county it covers as a newspaper. These articles are being prepared as the 120th anniversary of the newspaper's birth approaches in 2011.)

It was 1938 and unbeknownst to anyone the Depression was near to coming to an end as America geared up for an inevitable world war that it would be thrust into by the attack Japanese military forces three years later.

But in that year, Carbon County was also gearing up for the future; a future filled with educational opportunities. The school districts schools were busting at the seams and Carbon High needed a new place to hold classes. The area also had lobbied hard since 1935 with the state to get the money to build a junior college in the area. By early 1937 the plans to build a school came through the legislature with that body appropriating much of the money to set up a new school in the Price area.

The Sun Advocate reported on the entire spectrum of activity involving the opening of the college, from its early days of conception to the day its doors opened and beyond. In some ways it is a good time to celebrate and remember that original opening, because next week the old Carbon College will officially open its doors as Utah State University College of Eastern Utah, probably the biggest change since the school opened.

In these days of what is seemingly long term, ever present construction, politics that get wrapped around a proverbial pole that are hard to unwind and statutes that prevent this and that from happening, the emergence of a new institution of higher education seems more difficult than it did then. The school, to be known as Carbon Junior College, was barely a dream in early 1938, despite the funding with the drawing still at the architects offices in Salt Lake, not yet completed.

In the 1930's, the Utah State Board of Education administered the public schools as well as the states colleges. It wasn't until sometime later that the Utah Board of Higher Education would appear, along with it's governing body the Utah State Board of Regents. The state had given the firm of Cannon and Mullin the job to do the design work on the schools first buildings and in February the plans were sent to the P.W.A. (Public Works Administration) in San Francisco, Calif. for final approval. The reason the P.W.A. was involved is that some of the money to build the school was coming from a grant by that federal government agency.

At the same time (January 1938) the state was taking applications to select the first president of the school as well. Part of that process was being overseen by Carbon School District Superintendent G.J. Reeves. In addition applications were being taken for faculty members as well.

Plans were also being drawn up to build within the year after the original two buildings opened, a gymnasium which would cost an additional $66,000.

Once all the plans were approved the bidding process for the buildings was let. In February the T.R. Rowland Company of Salt Lake submitted the low bid to build the main administration building (later named the Reeves Building after the superintendent and used until it was torn down seven years ago to construct the new administration building) and the vocational building ( still standing and known today as the SAC). The bid for both buildings was $198,934, a large sum in terms of 1930's dollars. Under the plan construction had to begin by March 1 and end by Sept. 1 so that it could be ready to accommodate students.

The next month the state board of education named Elden B. Sessions as the first president of the college. He was a native Utahn who had been teaching at the University of Rochester in New York. His education included degrees from Utah Agricultural College (now Utah State) and the University of Idaho. He later got a doctorate from Ohio State University.

With the new president in place, the first shovel full of dirt was turned that month (March 31) to begin construction of the campus. The new president, along with the state and local officials began filling the spots on the faculty. Since the school would be a combined high school and ministered the public schools as well as the states colleges. It wasn't until sometime later that the Utah Board of Higher Education would appear, along with it's governing body the Utah State Board of Regents. The state had given the firm of Cannon and Mullin the job to do the design work on the schools first buildings and in February the plans were sent to the P.W.A. (Public Works Administration) in San Francisco, Calif. for final approval. The reason the P.W.A. was involved is that some of the money to build the school was coming from a grant by that federal government agency.

At the same time (January 1938) the state was taking applications to select the first president of the school as well. Part of that process was being overseen by Carbon School District Superintendent G.J. Reeves. In addition applications were being taken for faculty members as well.

Plans were also being drawn up to build within the year after the original two buildings opened, a gymnasium which would cost an additional $66,000.

Once all the plans were approved the bidding process for the buildings was let. In February the T.R. Rowland Company of Salt Lake submitted the low bid to build the main administration building (later named the Reeves Building after the superintendent and used until it was torn down seven years ago to construct the new administration building) and the vocational building ( still standing and known today as the SAC). The bid for both buildings was $198,934, a large sum in terms of 1930's dollars. Under the plan construction had to begin by March 1 and end by Sept. 1 so that it could be ready to accommodate students.

The next month the state board of education named Elden B. Sessions as the first president of the college. He was a native Utahn who had been teaching at the University of Rochester in New York. His education included degrees from Utah Agricultural College (now Utah State) and the University of Idaho. He later got a doctorate from Ohio State University.

With the new president in place, the first shovel full of dirt was turned that month (March 31) to begin construction of the campus. The new president, along with the state and local officials began filling the spots on the faculty. Since the school would be a combined high school and college some of the faculty members were selected from present high school faculty in the area. Others came from out of the area through a recruitment process.

As with everything though, things got delayed. The buildings got behind schedule. Some of it had to do with supply problems and a wet spring. Another setback took place because of a week and a half long strike by the Hod Carriers, Building and Common Laborers Union, whose members were working on the project.

The start time for the school was set back to the end of September and with work not progressing quite as expected the opening days would accommodate only college freshmen (estimated to number 100). The high schools students would move in sometime in December.

As the time for opening approached other problems occurred, but none prevented the opening of school. There were numerous equipment problems (not arriving on time) but the paper reported in late September that "Sufficient equipment will be installed by that time to permit starting of classes in the new buildings, although it is not likely that all the equipment (needed) will be in by that time."

Registration for classes was a celebration as the first registrar of the college W. Wilchen Fox had students fill out their paperwork. The excitement across the two county area was immense.

On Oct. 6, 1938 the paper reported that the opening of school was exciting and life altering for the county. The enrollment had actually exceeded 100 as people signed up for the three tier educational system the college was offering. Those tiers included (1) Gaining further education for those already with degrees or partial degrees; (2) For those who wish to complete the first two years of college and them move on to a four year institution; and (3) for those that wanted a technical education in trades and other areas.

The school had been built to accommodate over 800 students, but the first floor of the Reeves Building was not yet complete so all academic classes were held on the second story.

An assembly that first morning introduced the members of the faculty to students, whose numbers had now expanded not only in number but in the number of locations they were from. The vast majority were from Carbon and Emery Counties, but there were also students from a dozen counties in the state as well as some from nine different states. The original enrollees, all freshmen, were from Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, California, North Dakota, Ohio and Kentucky.

In the end the school's opening was a huge success; however high school students from Carbon High would not move in until early in 1939 due to a number of problems. Carbon High School and what would become Carbon College were then permanently linked for another 20 years until 1959 when Carbon School District decided to build a new high school up the street from the college.

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